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Rexam highlights ‘medical concerns’ of high caffeine soft drinks

By Ben Bouckley , 22-Sep-2011

Sales of energy drinks are booming, but a new report from Rexam also highlights growing concerns about high caffeine soft drink use amongst young people, especially in the developing world.

Packaging supplier Rexam noted that carbonated soft drink (CSD) consumption represented the largest single packaged soft drink category in world terms, at 31 litres per capita in 2010 and a 38 per cent market share.

Ready-to-drink (RTD) iced teas and energy drinks were amongst the top category performers across all beverage categories, Rexam said, with 11 and 12 per cent respective growth annually since 2005.

Low calorie, ‘natural’ and reduced-sugar products – with claimed health benefits – were driving category growth in these two sectors, by appealing to more sophisticated tastes amongst consumers, the company added.

Concerns spreading

But soaring sales of high caffeine energy drinks in developed markets such as the US had raised "some medical concerns" about the popularity of such products, Rexam said.

Energy drinks were no different in terms of caffeine levels than coffee, and, therefore, if consumed in similar quantities have no additional effects, it added.

But it noted the following: “Some people, however, don’t drink energy drinks as they do coffee, which can lead to people accumulating higher concentrations of caffeine more quickly than would otherwise be the case.

“These concerns are now also spreading to the emerging markets, with a 25 per cent tax increase mooted in Mexico for 2011 and India also reviewing caffeine content levels.”

Similar UK concerns led the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) to publish a code of practice covering the promotion of high caffeine soft drinks last summer, to make it clear that such drinks “are not manufactured for children”.

Hallucination proneness?

This followed a University of Durham study in late 2008 , which found that high caffeine consumption (7+ cups of instant coffee daily) was positively related to stress levels and hallucination-proneness”.

The BSDA’s code states that all drinks with a high caffeine content (150mg+ caffeine under UK law) must now carry the labelling statement, “Not suitable for children, pregnant women and persons sensitive to caffeine. In addition, such drinks may not be promoted or marketed to persons aged under 16.”

In South America, Asia and the Middle East and Africa, Rexam said the CSD market was growing at around 5 per cent a year, driven by rising consumer incomes enabling more regular product purchases. India posted striking 10 per cent growth.

And Rexam predicted global growth for the CSD market of around 2 per cent per year, with European growth in line with this average, but Eastern Europe expected to perform better.

However, in the US, Rexam noted that CSD consumption levels are declining due to holistic approach to health and wellbeing amongst consumers that was fuelling growth in iced tea, energy drinks, still drinks, packaged water and soft drinks.

Rexam said still drinks juices and nectars were “gaining ground” amongst health-focused consumers worldwide, since they were seen as fresh, indulgent authentic and refreshing.

Packaged water was also gaining on carbonated water and no accounted for 31 per cent of global soft drinks volume, the firm said.

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